Labyrinth Network Northwest News:
Equine Labyrinth Demonstration & Workshop
I attended the pre-Gathering Friday morning Equine labyrinth event in New Harmony, IN. The Posey County Saddle Club showed how labyrinths are used therapeutically to train horses and riders on the Syzygy labyrinth that was 92’ in diameter with a 10’ center. Then, we were treated to an historical interpretation and reconstruction by eight riders on horseback of the Troy Ride as described by Virgil (around 30 BCE) from an illustration on the Tragliatella vase (660-630 BCE, Musei Capitolini, Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome, Italy) on a double classical mirrored labyrinth that was 86’ in diameter with a 30’ center.
After the outdoor demonstration, attendees went inside to the Visitor’s Center Lecture Theater in the Richard Meyers designed, Athenaeum building, where a presentation by Cordelia Rose, Dr. Louise Cash, Ben Nicholson, and Jeff Saward continued this topic of the therapeutic benefits of riding horses in labyrinths to people with special needs, as well as presented the international uses and designs of equine labyrinths.
The Syzygy labyrinth is a design by Ben Nicholson specifically for equine and rider therapeutic use with many double switchbacks that challenge both horse and rider to stay focused so that they stay on the path. Two quarter horses were used for this demonstration, an experienced lead horse that had been in this labyrinth before and a young two year old pinto that had never been in this labyrinth before. Dr Cash and Ben Nicholson moderated for both events and they explained that, since horses are pack animals, having the more experienced horse go first gave the younger, inexperienced horse the confidence to enter the labyrinth and continue around.
Having been an avid horseback rider in my youth, I could guess the challenges faced by both horse and rider as I watched from the deck of the Athenaeum, but that afternoon, when no one was on the labyrinths, I walked, trotted, and cantered around both of them on foot which really brought home to me the incredible difficulties faced by both horse and rider as they maneuvered around the bends and turns. A rider must be able to give their horse the correct signals to change leads so that the horse’s inner leg is planted first, not to mention the correct signals to go forward, stop, change direction, turn around, etc. There were times on this labyrinth when the horse and rider had to change leads rapidly two or three times in succession – a difficult feat for a seasoned horse and rider not to mention a young two year old. The pinto walked slowly, but never refused his rider’s commands and continued into the center and back out again – a very big deal for a horse!
Then the Posey County Saddle Club, with Cordelia Rose riding too, formed two teams of four riders and horses each and rode the Mirrored Classical labyrinth together in the reenactment of the Troy Town Ride (see Classical photos #1-3). I have seen the Lipizzaners, the white horses of Vienna, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Drill team ride in years past and this performance was every bit as marvelous and well done. They had obviously been practicing a great deal because at no time were any of the horses out of sync with each other or with the other team – a spectacular feat! It might look so in the pictures, but still pictures don’t convey the constant flow and inner weaving movement that took place. They came together, split apart, cantered, trotted, and walked and remained energetically connected to each other the entire time. I was very impressed and it was lovely to watch.
After the Troy Town ride was complete, two of the very seasoned riders and their mounts fast cantered around the entire labyrinth, wheeling and changing directions on a dime and this was great fun to watch and it sure seemed like horse and rider enjoyed the challenge as well.
During the presentation part of the workshop, some of the Posey County Saddle Club riders talked about the improvement in their horses’ responsiveness, agility, and increased level of focus since training and riding in these labyrinths. They plan on making their own labyrinths to be used as a training tool for their members and mounts.
This was one of many outstanding events during the Gathering. New Harmony is a gem of a place, well worth the visit. It was wonderful seeing old friends again and meeting my Blog Talk Radio guests in person and getting to know some of them over a glass of wine at the end of a enjoyably exhausting day. Huge kudos to Cordelia and Ben for their outstanding co-hosting! Well worth the pilgrimage and can’t wait for next year!
Click here to peruse the full December edition of Labyrinth Network Northwest News - devoted entirely to The Labyrinth Society gathering of 2010 in New Harmony, IN.
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